Fox recently released three Alfred Hitchcock classics on Blu-ray and I've already covered Rebecca in my dissection of Hitchcock's use of flashbacks and then I explored Spellbound and my three favorite aspects of that film. Now I turn to Notorious, and while Rebecca may be the only film from Hitchcock to ever win Oscar's Best Picture, Notorious may be one of the helmer's most beloved features. Curiously enough, did you know it is actually the unofficial source material for the most loathed installment in Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise? Not that you would know by the film's credits...
When I popped the Notorious Blu-ray into the player, I first noticed it features a strong improvement when it comes to image quality when compared to the previously released DVD edition, but it wasn't too far into the film that I began to realize it held a lot in common with a certain film featuring Ethan Hunt.
I'd seen Notorious only once before and in brief, it centers on the bond formed between government agent T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) and Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Berman), a woman whose father has just been convicted as a German spy. Devlin approaches Alicia, asking her to help the government in a mission spying on one of her father's friends, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), a man that had a crush on Alicia in the past. She's asked to spark up a relationship in order to obtain information needed to bring him down, but, of course, the romance between Devlin and Alicia soon adds additional tension.
For anyone that's seen Mission: Impossible II you're already seeing the similarities between the story described above and Ethan Hunt's second "impossible" mission. What you don't see is to what extent these two films are actually similar, but before that here's some brief background on the two scripts.
The screenplay for Notorious was written by Ben Hecht based on a story idea Hitchcock outlined after producer David O. Selznick handed Hitchcock the 1921 two-part short story "The Song of the Dragon" by John Taintor Foote. The credits for Mission: Impossible II give all story credit to Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Generations duo Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga with a screenplay by Robert Towne whose credits go as far back as screenplays for Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown. Keep that in mind as I break down these two films, side-by-side over the course of the next 13 image comparisons.
After Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) gets done with his rock climbing intro he's sent to recruit Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton) for a mission to get close to rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) after he stole the plans for a new virus called Chimera and its cure. Ethan and Nyah have never met and we get the stylized introduction courtesy of director John Woo at a lavish house party in Seville.
In Notorious it's the same deal, Devlin and Alicia have never met and following the trial convicting her father Alicia holds a party for friends, which Devlin finds himself conveniently invited to by what are assumed to be mutual acquaintances.
The events that immediately follow the introductions in both film are a little bit different, but they both involve dangerous driving sequences, both of which end with the female leads in bed, though this is where there is a clear divide in the two films in terms of their approach to sexuality.
The crazy car sequence in M:I 2 leads to a passionate kiss as the car hangs off the side of a cliff and ends with Ethan and Nyah in bed together. Ethan is able to convince Nyah to help him with his mission and the bond between the two is forming.
The car sequence in Notorious was treacherous because Alicia had been drinking so Devlin drives her home and lets her sleep it off. No hanky panky takes place, but Devlin too is able to convince Alicia to help him with his assignment.
Hands on hips gentleman...
After both Ethan and Devlin have convinced the ladies to help them out they go back to their superiors for further instructions at which point both men are informed the ladies are to rekindle the fires of past relationships. Jealousy obviously sets in and Devlin says, "I don't know if she'll do it." Ethan's response isn't much different saying, "I don't think I can get her to do it."
Naturally, both end up trying to convince their respective ladies and where do they do it?
Why, they both do it on their hotel balcony overlooking their foreign locale, Notorious taking place in Rio de Janiero and M:I 2 in Seville. Both ladies accept.